Brolly’s Bites - Tyrone’s tactical fouling has changed the culture of the game!

GAA Football All Ireland Senior Championship Round 4, Croke Park, Dublin 27/7/2013'Meath vs Tyrone'Tyrone's Stephen O'Neill is red carded by Referee Maurice Deegan 'Mandatory Credit �INPHO/Ryan Byrne
GAA Football All Ireland Senior Championship Round 4, Croke Park, Dublin 27/7/2013'Meath vs Tyrone'Tyrone's Stephen O'Neill is red carded by Referee Maurice Deegan 'Mandatory Credit �INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Joe Mahon said in the papers on Tuesday that Tyrone were far too nice!

We need to be more ruthless in defending a lead” he remarked.

More ruthless? Is Mickey Harte planning to deploy tear gas against the Monaghan forwards tomorrow?

Meath only managed to score a goal from play in the first half because Eamonn Wallace is a sprint champion.

Wallace took the pass as he cut in towards goal. Ryan McKenna, realising the danger, dived after him to carry out the obligatory rugby tackle but missed. The boy was just too fast.

The scene was an exact replica of a Tommy Bowe try, the winger avoiding the despairing dive of the covering defender with the angle of his run and his sheer pace.

In the second half, young Newman was not so lucky, Conor Gormley being close enough to casually haul him down. Conor’s matter of fact body language said it all.

It is simply what Tyrone do. If the forward is through on goal drag him down. Sean Cavanagh – perhaps the best player of the modern era – twice rugby tackled opponents in the dying stages.

Stephen O’Neill did the same and was sent off on the second yellow. As one Tyrone man tweeted; “Fair play to Stephen. He took one for the team. Tyrone abu!”

During that last quarter, getting through the Tyrone lines was impossible. They reminded me of riot police at the Short Strand, minus the batons. “Back off son, I’m warning you. One more step and I’ll have you.”

So they dragged the opponent down, kicked the ball away, jostled him like bouncers, delayed the free, then regrouped and began the process all over again.

When a journalist from the Irish Times had the temerity to ask Mickey Harte about it afterwards, you know what he said? “So what?” When there is no argument, resort to the language of the playground. Meanwhile Brian McGuigan, fast becoming the Chemical Ali of the Tyrone movement, advised “critics” to “wise up” and praised Tyrone for the “calm and cool way we closed out the game.”

“Closing out the game” has become a euphemism for dishonest and unethical behaviour. A language has been invented around this foul strategy that seeks to make it respectable.

It won’t be long before tactical fouling is described as “a civil and religious liberty.”

After the game, I was roundly attacked by Tyrone supporters. I summarise their points; 1. Joe is jealous; 2. Joe is biased; 3. Others do it; 4. Meath were dirty against us the time of the Big Snow and 5. Joe is a disgrace.

The self righteousness of Tyrone folk on this subject is almost as unpleasant as the strategy itself.

Their team is quite entitled to play this way. However, I am also entitled to point out that it is unpleasant and unsporting.

The big worry is that it is becoming part of the culture of the game. When someone as renowned and respected as Mickey Harte is publicly endorsing it, then we are in serious trouble.

It is of course correct – as many Tyrone people have pointed out – that others are doing it.

Pub Quiz question: Who said this last week: “If we’re five points up and a fella is going for goal in the last few minutes, we’re going to pull him down.

“If that means getting a second yellow card and going off or a black card under the new rules or whatever, we’re still going to do it. At the end of the day, we’ll just bring somebody else on instead. Cynicism is now part of the game.”

The answer is Mayo midfielder Aidan O’Shea, who at least has the balls to call it what it is.

And we’re told we just have to accept this? “Get real”, “Wise up Brolly”, “Don’t be so naïve”. (naive is the euphemism for not cheating.)

Imagine the scene at Croke Park tomorrow: Monaghan three points up with a minute to go. Sean Cavanagh goes through one on one against the goalie. Dessie Mone launches himself full length from behind and manages to sweep Sean’s foot, bringing him crashing to the ground outside the penalty box. Tyrone’s last chance evaporates. Monaghan win:

“Q. Mickey Harte, you’d have to say that was a magnificent last minute intervention by Dessie Mone?

A. In fairness Marty, it was text book stuff, right out of the top drawer. Obviously it’s something we work on a lot with our players but you’d have to say that one was a beauty. We’re disappointed but wish Monaghan well in the next round.”

Back in the RTE studio:

Q. So Joe, you’ve been looking again at Dessie Mone’s tackle?”

A. Well Michael, it was a classic. For the boys and girls watching at home, this is something they should watch again and again. When coaches are explaining the art of the tactical foul to their underage teams, this is the clip they should show them.”

Q. You’d have to agree Pat, it was a very special moment.

A. Well Michael, it was top drawer stuff alright. Watch the way he dives from almost two metres behind. At all times, he’s focussed on Sean’s right foot (the left’s for standing on) and he just about manages to get the flick on it.

Q. Cavanagh looked very, very angry Colm as he got to his feet? You can see from the shots we’re looking at that he is absolutely incensed?”

A. He needs to get real Michael. It’s not good to see such an unsporting reaction from the Moy man.

Q. Joe?

A. I agree Michael. If I were one of his team mates I’d be telling him to ‘wise up.’